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Sleep Apnea: Researchers discover drug that reduces frequency of breathing pauses

by Vaishali Sharma
sleep apnea

A new research from the University of Gothenburg has prepared the path for the first sleep apnea drug treatment. Breathing pauses decreased by more than 20 per hour on average for those administered the medication compared to previously.

Carbonic anhydrase (CA) inhibition has been investigated as a therapy. CA is an enzyme that helps the body maintain a balance of carbonic acid and carbon dioxide. Several medicines having CA inhibitory effects are currently on the market and are used to treat glaucoma, epilepsy, and other conditions.

Previous research has not rigorously investigated whether CA inhibitors may be utilised to treat obstructive sleep apnea. The current study was a randomised double-blind clinical experiment that included 59 participants with moderate to severe sleep apnea. Patients were randomly allocated to one of two groups: one that got either 400 or 200 mg of the CA inhibitor, and one that received placebo. The research lasted four weeks.

Overall, the medication reduced the number of breathing pauses and increased oxygenation over the night, according to the findings. A few individuals reported adverse symptoms such as headaches and shortness of breath, which were more prevalent in those who received the highest dose.

The findings of the trial, together with proven safety data for the medication sulthiame, justify further investigation into CA inhibition as a new possible therapy for obstructive sleep apnea.

“Among the patients who received the higher dosage of the drug, the number of breathing pauses decreased by approximately 20 per hour. For just over a third of patients in the study, only half of their breathing pauses were left, and in one in five the number fell by at least 60 percent,” says Jan Hedner, Professor of Pulmonary Medicine.

The availability of multiple licenced medications in the CA inhibitor category on the market allows for the rapid creation of an approved therapy for sleep apnea. Sulthiame, a medication used to treat epilepsy in children, was employed in this clinical investigation.

Today, treatment for a patient with sleep apnea is either an oral appliance therapy or a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) mask. Both help to maintain airway patency during sleep.

“These therapy options take time to get used to and, since they frequently are perceived as intrusive or bulky. Insufficient user time is therefore common. If we develop an effective drug, it will therefore make life easier for many patients and, in the long run, potentially also save more lives,” says Ludger Grote, Senior Lecturer at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.

Source: University of Gothenburg

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